Judge denies Otter's motion to put same-sex marriages on hold

Judge denies Otter's motion to put same-sex marriages on hold
Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A federal magistrate judge on Wednesday refused to put gay marriages in Idaho on hold pending an appeal from the state's governor.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Candy Dale said in her decision that Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's appeal is unlikely to succeed, so there's no reason to keep same-sex couples from seeking marriage licenses or marrying on Friday.

Dale noted she already found the governor's arguments lacked legal merit when she struck down Idaho's ban on same-sex marriage Tuesday evening. The judge said allowing Idaho to continue enforcing its laws against same-sex marriage would irreparably harm the four couples who sued, along with other gay couples.

"Nor does the public interest favor preserving a status quo that deprives individuals of their constitutional rights," Dale wrote. "The court finds a stay pending appeal is not warranted."

Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden already is working on the state's appeal to the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Wasden's spokesman Todd Dvorak said Wednesday morning.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Otter sent his own emergency appeal to the 9th Circuit.

He also issued the following statement in a press release:

"My first and highest responsibility is to defend the Idaho Constitution and the will of the people of Idaho as expressed at the ballot box. Idaho voters decided this issue in 2006 by defining 'marriage' in our Constitution as a union between a man and a woman. As Governor, it is my duty to aggressively support that decision throughout the legal process. We did that before Judge Dale with arguments that go to the heart of Idaho's values and respect for the family unit as it's been embraced by society for millennia. But we have seen enough federal judges around the country ignoring the expressed will of voters and the constitutionally protected sovereignty of states that we know this issue will be finally decided by the United States Supreme Court.  My job now is to ensure our state's voice is heard loud and clear on appeal, and that Idaho's right to self-determination is not further undermined."

Gay marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Otter said in a statement issued Tuesday night that Dale's ruling overturning the state's same-sex marriage ban was disappointing, but it was just one step in a long battle that will end at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dale's ruling ending the ban came in response to a lawsuit against the governor and Ada County Clerk Chris Rich brought by four Idaho same-sex couples. The judge said the ban unconstitutionally denies gay and lesbian couples their fundamental right to marry and wrongly stigmatizes their families.

Meanwhile in Oregon, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Organization for Marriage cannot defend that state's ban on same-sex marriage after the state attorney general refused to do so. U.S. District Judge Michael McShane denied the group's motion to intervene.

The decision paves the way for a ruling on the constitutionality of Oregon's same-sex marriage ban, which could come at any time.